Set during the end of Vision of the Future

Mara left Shada reviewing the files about the organization in the computer room of the Wild Karrde and wandered into Karrde's office. She sat down in the chair opposite Karrde's desk. "I'm glad you'll still have someone to keep you out of trouble after I'm gone," she told him. "Hiring Shada is the best thing you've done in a long time."

"Since hiring you?" he asked with an amused smile.

"Almost," she said, returning his smile.

"I always thought she was rather wasted in Mazzic's organization."

She had been sensing an odd undercurrent when he spoke about Shada. It wasn't something she'd ever sensed from him before. Mara studied him through narrowed green eyes. Suddenly, it clicked. "You like her. I mean really like her," she said with surprise. In all her years in his organization, she'd never really seen him express very much interest in a particular woman before.

"I really like all the best members of my organization. Yourself included," he pointed out, his expression giving nothing away.

"No. You know exactly what I mean, Karrde," she accused him. She knew him well enough to know when he was deflecting. "Be careful. I don't think Shada's anyone to be trifled with."

"You should know me better than that, Mara."

She did know he wasn't the sort of man make unwanted advances, especially with someone he employed. But still she'd never seen him so- intrigued, for lack of a better word- with someone like this. "I've known you to do some damn fool things."

"Don't be ridiculous," he scoffed.

"I'm not. If this intelligence sharing agency you're proposing isn't foolish, I don't know what is. What are you thinking?" She honestly didn't know. This agency wouldn't be half as lucrative as his current information brokerage and she knew he had no interest in truly joining the New Republic.

"It will work," he said confidently.

"That arrogance is what will get you in trouble," she warned him.

Shada was slightly startled when the door opened. She glanced up to see Karrde entering with two mugs of caf.

"I thought you could use a break," he told her.

Shada looked at her chrono. It had been over four hours since Mara had left her in the computer room to sift through the files about Karrde's organization. She was stiff from sitting in the same position for so long. She stretched her arms over her head. "I could. Thanks," she said accepting the cup from him.

He sat on the edge of the desk and she could feel his eyes studying her as she took a sip of her caf. It was exactly the way she liked it. It seemed that no bit of information was too small for Karrde's interest.

"Well?" he asked with a raised eyebrow.

"Well, what?"

"Are you still of a mind to join me or has all of this scared you off?" he asked motioning to the numerous datacards scattered about on the desk.

"On the contrary. And I have to say I am rather surprised at how diverse your business is. I hadn't realized." She had known his organization pretty much spanned the galaxy, but she hadn't known how many different ventures, many of them completely legitimate, that he had his fingers on.

"Well, I've found it's never smart to bet everything on only one hand."

"True," she agreed. "Still, I will admit I underestimated you."

That seemed to please him, his expression turning smug. "Which is the way I like it."

"You do like surprising people."

He smiled acknowledging the truth of that statement. "As I believe you do as well, my dear."

"It is useful in my line of work."

"Speaking of which, do you have anything in your wardrobe that would be appropriate for the treaty signing?"

She mentally went over the gowns in her possession. They were pretty much all on the flashy or slightly skimpy side as had been useful for her work as Mazzic's bodyguard. "No, probably not."

He nodded. "We'll go shopping this afternoon then."

"Won't Mara be going to the treaty signing with you?" Shada had assumed that would be the case.

"She'll be off with Skywalker before then. Besides, Admiral Pellaeon specifically invited you. He was very impressed by your skills. I think he would like to recruit you himself."

She made a face and he chuckled, "Well, I'm glad working for me isn't quite that distasteful." He stood. "I'll let you get back to your research then."

"You know it's not really necessary for you to come with me," Shada told Karrde as she got into the passenger seat of the air speeder. "Or don't you trust me to pick out something appropriate?" She strapped herself in and he pulled out of the Wild Karrde's hanger.

"Not at all. I need to visit my tailor as well."

"You have a tailor?" That amused her for some reason. Although it didn't really surprise her, Karrde seemed rather fastidious about his appearance.

"Doesn't Mazzic have a tailor?"

"Not that I'm aware of." She turned away from him to look out the viewscreen. She didn't really want to discuss Mazzic with him. In fact, she really didn't want to dwell on the past at all. It was still too painful to think about how wrong she'd been about so many things she'd counted on. Karrde didn't press her and they flew along in silence for a while. Shada's attention was drawn to the impressive choreography of the traffic surrounding them. It always amazed her.

"You like Coruscant," Karrde observed glancing at her.

"I do," she agreed easily focusing back on him. "I like the way life continues to move on relatively undisturbed no matter what government is in power at the moment. And I like the chaos of so many different kinds of beings in one place. There's always something new to see." She shrugged and gave him a pointed look. "Maybe I've just spent too many years hiding out in a smuggler's hole on some Rim backwater."

"I'll endeavor to keep you in touch with civilization as much as possible," he assured her. "In fact, you probably won't be able to avoid it now that we will be working so closely with the New Republic and Empire. You may soon long to hide away."

As a favor to Karrde, Councilor Organa Solo had gotten Shada an appointment with the atelier that made her state robes. Karrde certainly never seemed to do things by half measures, not even in outfitting her to hang off his arm.

He was lounging in a chair outside the dressing room when Shada walked out in the first gown for his inspection. The heavy voluminous skirts made her move at a frustratingly slow stately pace.

Karrde's eyes tracked over the elaborate gown. "Well, it's certainly very impressive," he said neutrally.

It was impressive and overly elaborate. It seemed like it had taken the consultant nearly half an hour to get her dressed. "It'll take half the crew to get me in and out of this thing," she complained running her hands over the ornately embroidered material covering the bodice.

"I'm sure you'd have plenty of volunteers."

She pinned him with a glare that would have frozen most men. Karrde just smirked at her, amused by her irritation. She suspected he had made that comment just to see if he could provoke a reaction from her which just irritated her further. She took a calming breath. "Besides, if we have to fight our way off of a Star Destroyer I'd rather not be encumbered by all these furbelows." She pulled at the long trailing sleeves of the gown.

"Good point, but let us hope that it doesn't come to that." He turned to the consultant helping them. "Do you have something simpler? Perhaps something along the lines of Councilor Organa Solo's style."

"Certainly, sir."

Shada came out of the dressing room again. This gown was indeed much simpler and easier to move in. It was a high necked pristine white gown of finely pleated silk that hung rather shapelessly from her body.

Karrde looked her over and she could tell he wasn't impressed. "It's certainly much plainer, but it's too-"

"Virginal?" Shada interjected, inspecting herself in the mirror.

"I was going to say 'white'," he said tactfully.

"That too." She was much too pale to wear this much white well. She turned to the consultant. "What's next?"

Shada walked out in the next gown. It was deep iridescent violet satin that was elegant in its simplicity. It had long tight sleeves that came to a point low on her hand and a wide but modest neckline. The bodice was fitted but not restrictive and the skirt was loose enough to easily walk or run in with a short train trailing in the back.

She watched Karrde's face and saw the admiration in his look. "I think this will do," she told the consultant.

"Yes, we'll take it," Karrde agreed.